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Road to Konglor cave in Laos opens to public in May

The renovation of the 36km-long road leading to Konglor Cave in Hinboun district, Khammuan province, will allow the passage of all vehicles to the cave from May, said a senior official yesterday.

At present the road is still under construction, and larger vehicles have been unable to navigate the detour road for the past two months.

Visitors to the cave are recommended to take a small vehicle if they want to experience this amazing cave.

The Director of the road-building project, Mr Somchay Khanthasane, told Vientiane Times yesterday that workers are asphalting the road so it is closed to traffic. Road users must temporarily use a detour road instead.

Mr Somchay said that although the road will open in May, it might be necessary to close it in the rainy season this year if the construction of two new bridges is not complete.

“We are now putting down the first layer of asphalt. We will continue the work after the rainy season and the road will be in perfect condition by the end of this year,” he said.

At the moment it takes three hours to get to the cave after leaving main road No A8, as the path passes through rice fields and is very bumpy. In the wet season it's almost impossible to get there.

Once the renovated road is finished, it should take just under one hour, said Mr Somchay.

The new road is costing about US$4.5 million to build. The Asian Development Bank has lent the Lao government more than 80 percent of the required funds, according to the Head of the Khammuan provincial Tourism Administration, Mr Thayaphone Singthong .

He said the road upgrade is part of tourism development in the province.

“Tourism development is very important for people living near the cave and will help to contribute to poverty reduction,” he said.

The 7.5km-long cavern that has been earmarked as a tourist attraction was discovered in the 16th century under the leadership of the governor of Nalae district, now Nakai district.

In 1997, the government invited French experts to survey the area before declaring it an official tourist site in 2002.

Mr Thayaphone recalled that in 2002 only eight foreign visitors came to the cave, but this number had increased rapidly since then.

The cave is 30 metres wide and between 20 and 100 metres high and is located in the National Protected Forest Area of Hinboun Mountain.

More than 100 foreign visitors make the journey to the cave each month on average, he said.

Mr Thayaphone said that in the past the cave was not seen as a source of income for local people, but had now become an important money-earner for many in the area.

“Unspoiled natural destinations have the potential to attract more tourists to the province,” he said.

Community-based ecotourism services, including village home-stays and boat trips through the cave, are provided by local people who proudly keep local customs alive.

By Souksakhone Vaenkeo

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